Improve focus & lose the stress: Mindfulness for attention issues
Despite an ambiguous name, Mindfulness actually describes the practise of unpacking the mind through focusing on just one action, activity or task at a time.
‘Why on earth would I want to do that?’ you might say. ‘I’m so BUSY!’
In daily life we’re always aiming to do more things at once rather than less..right?! Well it’s a nice idea but the flip-side of ‘multitasking’ as it is now appraisingly known, is to have ourselves in an unrelenting state of activity in which we are essentially continually distracted, either by further tasks or plans to do more tasks. And the result of that, as many of us will vouch, is a feeling of being detached, really quite stressed and most disappointingly, ineffective! Yes multitasking is something of a myth, as we end up struggling to complete things fully. Other mental limitations may result too such as poor memory, lack of creative input into tasks, fatigue and anxiety or worry. So how can we change this? The aim is to be more present in each activity we do, through techniques such as breath work, meditation, active listening and stopping activity regularly.
How does Mindfulness help with attention or concentration disorders?
Mental attention disorders such as Attention Deficit Hyperactivity Disorder (ADHD) are characterised by inappropriate levels of impulsiveness, over-activity and reduced concentration or ‘mind wandering.’ It’s important to note here that ‘mind wandering’ is not to be confused with creative day-dreaming or imagining which is a positive not to mention essential part of brain health and completely natural to human brain activity. Unfortunately ADHD is a not often aligned with productivity and manifests as an inability to do one thing at a time and to focus effectively on one task.
Mindfulness techniques such as meditation can help to reduce the response to stimuli and the ‘whirring-thoughts’ cycle falls away and allows us to be more focused on the present moment. With on-going practise this can have a positive influence on repetitive cognitive behaviours.
What is Mindfulness when applied through a psychotherapeutic framework?
This notion of being more present and more aware can be a significant benefit to times of mental challenge including those times in which we criticise ourselves or spend time thinking negatively or obsessively about a situation, thing or person. The emphasis of Mindfulness in psychotherapy or when complimentary to Cognitive Behavioural Therapy (CBT) is not on changing unhelpful thoughts but rather on cultivating greater mindfulness with respect to them.
A ‘mindfulness attitude’ recognises that thoughts are not facts, emotions are significant, and that both can be accepted non-judgmentally as natural parts of life to which a person can choose how they react. Mindfulness is therefore used as a tool to help us step away from distraction and focus on the presenting issues. We can learn to disengage from habitual and dysfunctional routines and reduce future recurrences of the presenting issues.
How can you start practicing Mindfulness today?
- Slow down. The paradox of Mindfulness is that slowing down, even just a little bit, actually helps many of us get more things done. Next time you get up from your chair, decide to do it more slowly and the same with sitting back down. What do you notice? When we slow down things become a lot clearer, especially with regards to making decisions, processing information and interacting with others.
- Breathe. Being aware of our breathing is the first way we can connect with our physical bodies and connecting to the body can really help concentration and the feeling of being focused. Sometimes described as ‘grounding’ effective breathing also, dare we say it, gets oxygen to the brain- yes! And this in turn helps us to concentrate better and be more cognitive in our activities.
- Listen. So many of us are so busy doing and acting that we forget to listen. Listening, both to our breathing, our surroundings, our thoughts and others allows us to be more truly informed, not to mention more in touch with our desires and feelings which influence heavily the decisions we make and the actions we subsequently take. Try this out and if you have difficulty with it, apply the first two practices above first and try again. Mindfulness is an on-going practise.
Mindfulness: one week challenge
Pick three tasks which you do often each day, such as eating a meal, walking to the tube or playing with the kids and make a commitment to do them ‘mindfully,’ following the above three tips, for one week. What new experiences and feelings do you notice? What about the choices you make? Let us know how it goes!
At Fresh Mind Therapy our approach to mental health issues including those which involve low concentration, low energy or a feeling of depression, combine a range of techniques including Mindfulness as a way to manage symptoms. If you would like to know more about how Mindfulness and Cognitive Behavioural Therapy could help improve both your mood and concentration levels, get in touch with us here